Copyright? Where we’re going, we don’t need copyright…
Before the age of Twitch live streams, in-game-play trailers and consoles being able to pretty much convey close-to-real-life graphics, a game lived and died in the sales charts by the bombasticity, to coin a phrase, of their box art.
If it was a new game, then this was pretty much the only thing that developers had, back in the 80s and early 90s, to try and entice potential punters in.
And back in those days, video games were still very much the realm of the nerd, and had a long way to go before it became one of the most lucrative entertainment mediums in the world. It was also in the days before the machinations of copyright laws had properly been agreed on or ironed out.
So, with these two footnotes in mind, and with creative sparks being what they are, it came as no surprise when developers looked to major motion pictures for inspiration for their box art.
And to use the word ‘inspiration’ is being very kind indeed. What do I mean by that? Well let me show you, as we take a look at 13 of the most brazen examples of video games stealing ideas from whatever blockbuster movie VHS tapes that happened to be lying around the offices of video game developers.
Metal Gear (1987) – based on The Terminator (1985)
Who knew that Metal Gear had such a pick-pockety start in life? In one of the most obvious cases of lifting I think I’ve ever seen, time-travelling solider Kyle Reece, who was played by Michael Biehn, can be seen in a famous shot of James Cameron’s sci-fi classic as well as on the front cover of Metal Gear.
And it’s almost exactly the same.
Clearly, the game’s designer Hideo Kojima took a great deal of inspiration from The Terminator, as he seems to have lovingly sketched out the character for his NES tank-finding simulator that spawned the brilliant Metal Gear Solid series.
International Karate + (1988) – based on Above the Law (1988)
Steven Seagal was on top of the world in 1988. He just seemed like the biggest and baddest hombre around. A with a full four years to enjoy before he officially hit the roof with Under Siege, with only one way to go from there, and 25 years before he was banned from entering Ukraine, Seagal was enjoying the peak of his cool, and was snapping as many necks as he was cashing cheques.
His influence seems to have gone as far as International Karate +, which was released around the time of Above the Law, and the box art of the game bares a very noticeable resemblance to the poster of the film…
The box art is pretty much every 80s karate-douche’s wet dream: Steven Seagal watching on as Chuck Norris kicks Jean-Claude van Damme in the throat. My word…
Prototype (1992) – based on Back to the Future (1985)
What can you say about this one…other than GREAT SCOTT!
Contra (1988) – based on Predator (1987), Aliens (1986) and Rambo (1985)
There were few games as “high concept” as Konami’s shoot-em-up in the ’80s, going by not one, not two, but three different titles (it wavered between Gryzor and Probotector also). And it also pilfered its cover stars from a trio of the decade’s big franchises by the time it left the arcade and hit the NES.
While Aliens was often referenced in ’80s gaming (we’re looking at you Alien Breed) and Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra remains one of the funniest misappropriations of a film licence (seriously, check out the random Rocky music on the loading screens, it’s just golden), nothing quite said ’80s blockbuster success like Arnie. His last name is a brand all its own, and in the 80s, he wasn’t just the star of blockbuster films, he was blockbuster films. So those iconic poses were milked for all they were worth…
Navy Moves (1988) – based on Commando (1985)
Second up on our Schwarzenegger triple-header is Navy Moves, released in 1988, that certainly did not fare as well as the film from which its box art was, shall we say, inspired?
This side-scrolling action game has faux-Arnie donning a scuba mask to take down evil sailors and giant sea monsters in a spaceship.
I know what you’re thinking: “I think I saw that film on Sci-Fi one time.” Sadly no, Navy Moves had the idea first.